If you’re looking for green beer for St. Patrick’s Day or any day of the year, you have plenty of choices. Here are our top 7, plus some background info to help you shop locally.
What Makes for Organic Beer?
Green beer starts by being organic. That means it meets the same standards as organic foods. No toxic pesticides or synthetic fertilizers can be used to grow the ingredients, and the soil that they’re grown in needs to be free of toxic chemicals for at least three years. Genetically modified ingredients (GMOs) are not allowed.
• 100 percent organic – to receive this certification, the beer must have been brewed from organically produced ingredients and nothing else.
• Organic – this is the next level of certification, and means that the ingredients are 95 percent organically produced – still good compared to beers that are not organic at all.
Once they meet those either of those two criteria, organic brewers can be as imaginative as any of their competitors. They can add fruit; spices; some even add spruce tips, pumpkin, honey, and root vegetables. And we’re not just talking “beer,” here. Amber ale, pale ale, stout, porter, Belgian white, hard cider, lager…the list goes on and on, and so do your choices.
Why Drink Organic Beer?
First and foremost, drinking organic beer is a great way to support organic agriculture. Beer is basically made of grains, fruit, and spices, plus yeast and water. When the agricultural ingredients are produced organically, they help keep groundwater clean, reduce toxic air pollution, and protect the workers who grow them. If you already buy organic fruits and vegetables, why not shift to organic beer, too?
Since many organic beers are produced locally, buying them also helps support your local economy.
As for the price, organic beer costs around the same as many craft beers. They won’t break the bank but they will help you do good and have fun at the same time.
There are literally dozens of organic brews in the market today. You can find a long list of them on the website of the North American Organic Brewers Festival or ask where you buy your beer.
7 Organic Beers To Taste Test
Wolaver’s Organic Brewery – This Middlebury, VT company was one of the first organic brewers in the market. They’re also Non-GMO Project Verified. Year round, they bottle India Pale Ale, Brown Ale and Oatmeal Stout. In autumn, give their Pumpkin ale a try. Their winter seasonal brew, Alta Gracia Coffee Porter, is made in cooperation with the Vermont Coffee Company using 100% certified fair trade, organic coffee from the Alta Gracia farm in the Dominican Republic.
Eel River IPA – How can you go wrong with the slogan: Be natural, drink naked. That’s what owners, Ted Vivatson and Margaret Frigon, thought when they realized they wanted a “naked” beer, free of pesticides and “all that bad stuff.” Based in Scotia, California, Eel River claims to be the first certified organic brewery in the U.S. They’ve received over 300 awards and medals for a range that includes Amber Ale, Blonde Ale, Porter, and something they call Triple Exultation, an “old English ale” featuring flavors of soft currant fruit and blackstrap molasses. The brewery is powered by mill leftovers like wood chips, bark, scrap lumber and cllippings.
Bison Brewing Co. – Give their Chocolate Stout a try. It’s brewed with Peruvian cocoa. Or choose either the Honey Basil beer or the Organic Hop cuvee West Coast Ale. Among the seasonal ales produced by this Berkeley, CA-based brewer are Organic Ginger Bread and Saison de Wench Farmhouse Ale, infused with rose petals, hibiscus and lemongrass. Or try Kermit the Hop, a “double” IPA.
Lakefront Brewery – Milwaukee-based Lakefront makes a classic, British-style ESB – extra special bitter, with a citrusy flair. If barley wine-style ale is more to your liking, try “Chad,” the spicey brand concocted by, well, the brewery’s cellarman named Chad. The company also bottles an organic coffee stout called Fuel Café. They claim it goes well with roasted entrees, but I like the idea of pairing it with dessert, especially vanilla ice cream or some cannoli.
Peak Organic Brewing Company – This Maine-based company depends on nearby farms and artisan businesses for its supply of organic hops, malt from local grains, micro roasted coffees, organic oats, barley and chocolate, and locally produced maple syrup. Look for these ingredients in beers ranging from the Fresh Cut Pilsner to Hop Blanc, their White IPA, to the special ales they brew for spring, summer, fall, and winter. They also make a Hop Noir from organic black malt. “Enjoy with a night light,” they recommend!
Butte Creek Brewing – This Chico, CA brewery bills itself as “The Official Beer of Planet Earth” and why not? The company bottles a pale ale, porter, India pale ale and pilsner. But if you opt for its seasonal Spring Run Organic Pale Ale, you’ll not only quench your thirst; you’ll be helping to restore the habitat of the Chinook salmon, one of Butte’s favorite charities.
Samuel Smith – Don’t confuse this with Massachusetts-based Sam Addams. This beer is brewed in North Yorkshire, UK, and offerings range from lagers, ales and stouts to fruit beers flavored with cherry, strawberry, raspberry and apricot. The beers are also registered with the Vegan Society, and are suitable for vegans and vegetarians alike.
What’s your favorite organic beer? Please share!
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